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Dixie Chicks, Hill, Brooks Among Top Country Contenders for Grammys - 2003-02-13

On February 23, the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences will hold it 45th annual Grammy Awards ceremony. For the first time since 1998, the prestigious honors will be handed out in New York City. VOA's Mary Morningstar gives us a preview of the contenders in the Country music categories.

The Dixie Chicks' album, Home, their first release in three years, earned the Texas-based group four Grammy nominations. Along with mentions in the Best Country Album, Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal, and Best Country Song categories, The Dixie Chicks will compete in the overall Album of the Year category.

Unlike many fan-voted awards shows, the Recording Academy chooses nominations based on musical merit, not on their commercial success. That's been reflected even more in the Country categories over the past few years. Prominently recognized last year were the soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou? featuring bluegrass and old-timey music, and traditional recordings by Ralph Stanley and Dolly Parton. Parton is nominated again this year in the category of Best Country Female Performance for a track, called Dagger Through The Heart.

Many mainstream Country artists also impressed the voting members of the Recording Academy. Previous Grammy winners Faith Hill, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood are contenders again this year. Surprising to some were multiple nominations given to two newcomers. Texan Pat Green is up for the Best Country Song and Best Male Country Vocal Performance for his hit single Three Days. Other first-time nominees include Country trio Trick Pony and 26-year-old Joe Nichols, who came to international attention last year with his breakthrough single, The Impossible.

Several very popular artists were overlooked in this year's Grammy nominations, including Montgomery Gentry, Kenny Chesney and Toby Keith. Also absent from the nominations list are superstars Shania Twain and Tim McGraw. Neither released an album within the eligibility period.

The Grammy Awards ceremony will be telecast to an international audience of more than two billion in 180 countries. Country artists scheduled to perform at this year's event include Faith Hill and The Dixie Chicks. Alan Jackson is tied with The Dixie Chicks as this year's most-nominated Country performers. His response to the September 11th terror attacks is nominated in the general Best Song category. It's also mentioned in the Best Country Song and Best Country Male Vocal Performance categories. Alan's latest album, Drive, earned a nod for Best Country Album.